Garment manufacturers in Thailand are preparing to tackle China's massive textile industry head-on with a wide-scale modernisation programme that improves workers' productivity and efficiency.

New technology being introduced into factories in Bangkok and other cities is boosting output levels as industry chiefs try to improve efficiency before mass-produced clothing is unleashed on the world by China.

Among the high-tech innovations are bar code identification strips that keep tabs on how many shirts, skirts or trousers young women make, allowing computers to keep track of exactly how much work they do.

The more they do, the more they get paid, a change from the old days when they earned a flat rate and would deliberately work slowly to earn overtime later.

Thailand has around 4,000 garment and textile factories employing over one million people, making brand products for Nike, Reebok and US giants Wal-Mart and K-Mart.

In 2005, quotas that until now restricted the amount of goods exported to markets in the US and Europe will be liberalised, enabling China to get a bigger slice of the cash cake.

But it is not just China that Thai garment makers are worried about as low-cost manufacturers in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will also be looking to cash in.

However, despite that threat Thailand's Garment Manufacturers' Association, the government and international consultants say they will continue to introduce new measures to make the industry more competitive, efficient and productive.


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